Teacher in Charge: Timothy Jones

Accompanying dance teacher: Lola Moreno

February 2007

The group consisted of twenty-nine students from Y8 to Y13, twelve parents or relatives, our travel agent, Ignacio Sanz, and three teachers: forty-five persons in total. Preparation for this visit included my attending a conference at Dulwich College in London in April 2006, organised by the CHEER China-Europe Education and Research Foundation, where I met Principals of the leading schools in China. We were not able to accept invitations to perform at the Chinese schools because, as our visit coincided with the Spring Festival/ Chinese New Year celebrations, the Chinese schools were closed for the holiday, but we were able to perform at an international school in Shanghai, and this was a direct result of conversations at the CHEER Foundation Conference.


Our midday flight from Madrid to Amsterdam on Sunday 11th failed to take off because of mechanical failure and we had to fly at 9pm. This meant that we missed our connecting flight to Beijing and had to stay the night in Amsterdam. Thanks to quick footwork by our travel agent we were given a guided tour of Amsterdam on the morning of Monday 12th, and it was very heartwarming that all the pupils insisted on going to see the Anne Frank Museum, even from the outside, and they spent a long time taking photographs there.


We missed a whole day’s activities which had been prepared for us at the Yew Chung International School in Beijing. This is the first time in four journeys across three continents that we have had to cancel an activity: a very distressing experience. Fortunately, the students saw their short visit to Amsterdam as an unexpected bonus.

We finally arrived in Beijing on Tuesday 13th. We went straight from the airport to Tiananmen Square, said to be the largest urban square in the world, and the Forbidden City. The biting wind which was especially noticeable in the Square did not diminish our students’ interest in seeing the historic landmarks, and we all enjoyed seeing the Imperial site which is being restored in preparation for the expected visitors to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.

The next day we made our memorable visit to the Great Wall. I have now been to it four times, with different groups of colleagues and students, and each time this monument strikes me as more imposing. Some of group managed only to the top of the first flight of stairs, while others managed to climb up past several watch towers and were rewarded with magnificent photos.

Later that day we performed at the Instituto Cervantes centre in Beijing to an audience of Spanish and South American residents and only a sprinkling of local people. It was a special privilege to perform in the centre, only recently inaugurated by His Royal highness the crown Prince of Spain.

The next morning we flew to Shanghai and were taken straight to the British Council centre to rehearse and perform. In contrast to the previous day’s audience, in Shanghai we performed to an all Chinese audience, and they listened attentively as they enjoyed what, for some, was their first experience of Western music being played live by Western teenagers and of a Spanish dance performed by young dancers from Spain.

The Shanghai Rego International School was the venue for our last concert of the tour, on Friday morning. All the performers did well, but a memorable moment for me was listening to one of our 15 year old boys. Tired out from our busy schedule and without having had a piano to practise on for days, he gave a most beautiful rendition of a Bach Prelude and Fugue which was warmly received and admired by all those present.

Thanks to Mr Hadyn Adams, Head of the school, we were invited to refreshments and social time with the local students.

Our ferry trip along the Huangpu River was shrouded in mist but we were able to appreciate the architectural contrast between the western Bund and the Pudong area on the eastern side.

We had the great good fortune to witness the Chinese Spring Festival/ New Year celebrations, with fireworks in formal shows organised by the municipal authorities and informal ones by local residents. The noise and flames went on long into the night and we were not surprised by the claim that fireworks were invented first in China.

We enjoyed one more day in China, touring the beautiful city of Suzhou, whose magnificent gardens and canals inspired Marco Polo to call it the Venice of Asia. Our progress through the gardens was slow because we were stopped so many times by local residents, enjoying their public holiday stroll, requesting our students to pose for photos with their little children.